Though it made little impact initially, the single "Who Will Save Your Soul" eventually received airplay and the album peaked at #4 on Billboard 200 almost exactly two years after its release. Other hits included were "Foolish Games" and "You Were Meant for Me" as well as the UK single "Morning Song". After two years, the album was re-released featuring the re-recorded versions of "You Were Meant for Me" and "Foolish Games". Despite a mixed critical response, the album is listed at number 64 of the "Definitive 200" by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
As of 2010, the album had sold 7.3 million copies in US. It was certified 12x Platinum for shipments of 12 million copies in the U.S., making it one of the best selling debut albums of all time.
The bulk of the songs featured on Pieces of You were written by Kilcher between the ages of sixteen and nineteen; she has said that "Who Will Save Your Soul" specifically was written while she was busking during a hitchhiking trip she took by herself over spring break from the Interlochen Center for the Arts, where she had been studying on a vocal scholarship.
While living in San Diego, California, Kilcher managed to amass a local following while performing in coffee houses and local bars, which resulted in a bootleg being broadcast on 91X FM. Kilcher then became subject of a bidding war between labels, eventually signing with Atlantic Records.
Several tracks on Pieces of You were recorded live in 1994 at the Innerchange, a San Diego coffeehouse where Kilcher was a regular performer. The remainder of the album was recorded in Neil Young's studio at Broken Arrow Ranch in Redwood City, California, under the supervision of producer Ben Keith.
Upon its initial release in 1995, the album received little attention, after which Kilcher was invited to tour as the opener for Bob Dylan, which helped garner more public attention. Two of the album's singles were re-recorded for a 1997 re-release of the album.
David Browne of Entertainment Weekly gave the album a negative review upon its 1997 re-release, noting, "Pieces of You remains a wimpily produced batch of songs — so ineffectual that both ”Who Will Save Your Soul?” and ”You Were Meant for Me” had to be rerecorded for release as singles. It’s best considered as a guided tour through three decades of female folk-pop styles," comparing it negatively to Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush.Robert Christgau also gave the album a starkly negative review, writing: "With the possible exception of Saint Joan, who at least had some stature, this is the bad folkie joke to end all bad folkie jokes."
Sarah Sytsma of AllMusic gave the album a positive review, calling it "a charming collection of light alternative folk-rock from the teenage singer/songwriter. Her songs are occasionally naive, but her melodies can usually save her lyrics."